Hidden stars of Broadway
Updated: Mar 22, 2022
The beautiful Cotswolds honeystoned village of Broadway attracts many visitors keen to enjoy its elegant charm. The famous wide street … the wonderfully proportioned Cotswolds stone buildings ... the stylish shops … the atmosphere of rural idyll.
The story of Broadway takes in the Medieval wool trade, the stagecoach era, the late 19th-century ‘Broadway Colony’ of artists and celebrity cricket teams run by Peter Pan's creator. All feature in my walking tour, but Broadway boasts other fascinating surprises.
Fun fact 1: smart hotel Lygon Arms dates from Medieval times and hosted the leaders of both sides of the 17th-century English Civil Wars. But its name sign has been re-painted many many times.
It was called the White Hart in 1377 after the personal symbol of King Richard II.
When he was replaced by Henry IV, the inn tactfully became the White Swan, emblem of his house of Lancaster.
This became the Hart and Swan during the reign of Henry V and by the time James I was on the throne it was called The George.
By 1620, it was the Swan again, then it reverted to the White Hart.
Its current name dates from 1841 after its owner General Henry Beauchamp Lygon, who had fought at the Battle of Waterloo. He made his butler manager in 1820, who later re-named the inn after his boss.
Fun fact 2: a timber gable that looks as if it has adorned a side street for hundreds of years was, in fact, brought here by Sydney Russell just over 100 years ago. He found it in Worcester and it's actually one of Broadway’s most recent additions!
Fun fact 3: Just up the High Street from the Lygon Arms is the Grade II listed Picton House (now an art gallery), once owned by obsessive bibliophile Thomas Phillips. Outside it stands a stone marker on which is carved the message: ‘shut off two horses here’.
This was an instruction to coachmen about to steer their vehicles into Broadway down Fish Hill from the high escarpment above the village. It stood on Fish Hill until 1998 when a bypass transformed Broadway’s High Street from a bustling thoroughfare to a rural idyll.
Fun fact 4: Another stone marker further up the High Street is an ancient milestone. It shows distances to local centres such as Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold as well as destinations such as Worcester and London. This is a helpful reminder of Broadway’s key role as a stagecoach stop that was a major source of cash until the railways killed the trade in the 1860s.
Fun fact 5: Finally, up towards the top of the High Street, nestled in a wall on the left is a water trough where horses guzzled a joyful jawful of water before enduring the long climb up Fish Hill on the route towards London.
My walking tour tells these and many other stories, plus drunken parsons and a chapel in an attic. Book now to be amused and astounded!
Offbeat Cotswolds walking tours